Woolworth Uk's defiance during the Second World War
Finest Hour: World War II at F.W. Woolworth
Churchill first appeared on a Woolworth Postcard as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1915
In 1939 he answered the nation's call again
Before long Woolworth personnel were also answering the call of duty
The man who signed this notice was himself called up; Stephenson was asked to head Aircraft Production
Contemporary drawings show how staff feared the worst ...
... frightened by gas mask drills, like this one in Wolverhampton
Many volunteered as Fire Wardens, ARP Officers or Auxiliary Nurses
The stores sold lots of patriotic products, like these mini-books
Prices were kept artificially low to boost morale
The media mogul Lord Beaverbrook supported the idea with stocks of paper
Woolworth turned Beaverbrook's cardboard into patriotic sixpenny 'Lumar' Jigsaw Puzzles
These were intended as a distraction for children in Air Raid Shelters
Before the War, the stores in Jersey and Guernsey contributed competing articles to the staff magazine to attract new visitors to the Channel Islands...
... but no-one expected so many German visitors in St Peter Port in 1940 !
Under occupation the King's head was removed from postage stamps
The invaders instructed islanders to hand in their guns - many queued to hand in toy weapons from Woolworth's
Pictures of British policemen co-operating with German soldiers caused dread on the mainland
Despite stunts like printing the Jersey Evening Post in German, soldiers queued politely for chocolate at the St Helier Woolworth's
From the same paper, evidence that without supplies from the mainland the stores had to fend for themselves
Both the St Helier and St Peter Port stores traded when they could, selling local goods
In 1940 Britain introduced rationing, managed with coupons
As hostilities continued, many foodstuffs, clothing and fuel were all rationed
Everyone got a sweet ration, but adults were encouraged to think of the children
Informally many Woolworth stores agreed to pass on coupons to deserving youngsters
Prices rocketed as the UK geared up for war making it hard to fill the counters
In 1940 Woolworth was forced to abandon its top price of sixpence (2½p) after 31 years
Appropriately the first items to breach the limit were rubber stick-on soles and heels
As the RAF and Luftwaffe fought in the skies, wooden planes became the must-have Xmas toy...
... while later boys imitated Monty's victory over against Rommel at El Alamein
Shoppers got their bikes out, as shops prepared for enemy bombing, as shown here in Croydon, Surrey
As regular staff were called up, old-timers were called back from retirement, prompting this cartoon in the staff magazine
With their deputies and supervisors called up, Store Managers had to be very resourceful
The staff gave money to buy a Spitfire for the Royal Air Force
Hearing of the initiative, Directors matched them pound-for-pound to buy a second Spitfire
The two planes, named Nix Over Six Primus and Secundus, entered service in 1941
Before the War Hitler's troops picketed their local Woolworth's in Berlin
In 1940 the bombing of 'West End Shops' inspired a famous newsreel and a message of defiance
A sign in store 463's shattered window said " you ought to see what the RAF have done to our Berlin branch!"'
For the record, here is that store in Badstraßë Berlin pictured in 1945. Bomber Harris had done his worst.
During World War II many British stores were grazed but carried on trading ...
... but others were totally destroyed. The Elephant and Castle, a mile from the Houses of Parliament, will never forget 1941
Where possible staff found ways to keep going, like here in Plymouth's Pannier Market
Soon after the large store in Coventry (top right) was obliterated, a temporary store was opened
This iconic picture of the High Holborn, was described by the censor as 'an unknown London store'
The Plymouth, Devonport store was patched up and traded without its upper floors
Staff in Coventry said re-opening had been 'as easy as 123' (which was their store number !)
Perhaps divine intervention saved Canterbury Cathedral, with the Luftwaffe hitting Woolworth's instead
Rampant Horse Street in Norwich was razed to the ground by 'EA' (enemy action)
The stylish, newly-opened branch in Lowestoft suffered the same fate
The destruction of the large store in Hounslow High Street was captured on film ...
By the morning after only Hounslow's fascia remained
Scarred by enemy action but soon trading again, the staff in Spalding, Lincolnshire's defiant response
Throughout 1943 and 1944 a huge tropp surge brought many US Airmen through Woolworth's doors
The British 5&10¢ provided a 'little piece of home' for the GIs before D-Day and the long march to Berlin
As the war turned and the Allies headed towards Berlin, Britain faced a sinister new threat
Werhner Von Braun and Walter Dornberger were behind German's Vengeance Weapons, the V1 pilotless plane and V2 rocket
Von Braun later said that his rockets 'landed on the wrong planet'
On Saturday, November 25, 1944 Woolworth's in New Cross Road, Deptford was packed with shoppers
Many were queueing to buy a saucepan from a surprise delivery ...
then, at 12:26 ...
... the entire store was annihilated by a V2 rocket
168 customers and staff perished. Just one person survived
25 years later the same rocket technology took three men to the moon
Lest We Forget
145 British Woolworth employees died serving their country in World War II
... but 2,163 returned home safely, heroes every one
68 of 82 Woolworth stores in Germany were destroyed between 1940 and 1945
We remember Dresden as well as Coventry, and Berlin as well as New Cross.